I walked into one of my company’s office buildings the other day. I worked in the building several years ago, but it had been a while since I had stepped foot inside. My head was down and I was thinking about what I needed to accomplish in my meeting.
Thanks to the glare of the overhead lights, I couldn’t really see the security guard far in front of me, but I heard her voice. She asked if I needed directions. I had another meeting in the same building the next day and she asked again, same thing, same bright cheery disposition. By contrast, the rumpled guard in my office building barely grunts hello when you enter the building.
In my thoughts
I’m not sure why, but I haven’t been able to get the guard’s greeting and willingness to serve out of my mind. I suspect it’s been on my mind because every time I’ve turned on the news lately one talking head has been beating up another talking head over immigration, health care, and every other political topic under the sun. Like most people, I haven’t been able to get away from it. The good thing about a 24/7 society is that you always know what’s going on, pretty much the same thing that stinks about a 27/7 society.
I’m not trying to turn back the clock, to some so-called “quieter” time. I just don’t understand where the anger comes from, why there’s little to no willingness to work together on our problems. We have big problems, no doubt. Serious ones that need to be addressed. And yes, differences of opinion should be valued. Free-thinking should be encouraged.
Somewhere along the line the simple act of kindness has become a lost art. We’ve become less about us, the group, and more about me. We want to rub the other guy’s face or better yet, the other party, in the muck and mud. When I was a kid, I remember my teachers and coaches lecturing us on the value of sharing and working together. Those lessons seems to be lost today.
Examples from another time
When Jonas Salk and his team came up with the Polio vaccine in the late 50s and early 60s, he refused to patent the invention to keep the order costs low – and consequently forfeited $7 billion to save as many lives as possible.
It’s true that ISIS terrorists weren’t trying to kill Americans at the time, but the times were no less dire. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year.
In the same altruistic vein, when Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 after serving 27 years in prison on Robben Island, he didn’t seek revenge against his former jailers. Instead, he invited one of them, a white man named Christo Brand, to his 1994 presidential inauguration. Later, he invited Brand to the 20th anniversary celebration of his release from prison. Mandela’s influence, according to Brand, was life-changing, and their friendship became a lesson in forgiveness for many around the world.
Kind, kinder, kindest
I’m sure the anger and frustration will get worse before they get better . . . that’s life today. We have challenging problems that need to be addressed and need creative solutions, but the security guard in her own small way reminded me to look for the good in others and simply to be good for others.